The power of human unity, explored through art

28 Jul 2016
Judy Cassab's Stanislaus Rapotec 1960. Oil on hardboard (152.5 x 91.5 cm board; 169.3 x 108 x 4 cm frame)  Collection: Art Gallery of NSW,  Purchased 1961.  Photo AGNSW  © Judy Cassab/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016 Judy Cassab's Stanislaus Rapotec 1960. Oil on hardboard (152.5 x 91.5 cm board; 169.3 x 108 x 4 cm frame) Collection: Art Gallery of NSW, Purchased 1961. Photo AGNSW © Judy Cassab/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016

Partner Content, provided with the help of Casula Powerhouse 

On any given day, the majority of the western world will wake up from a sound night’s sleep, eat a nourishing breakfast, shower and walk straight out the door with only “first world problems” to angst over.  

But for those living in war-torn areas, fearing persecution, mass shootings, bombs and for their children’s futures, reality is starkly different. The refugee crisis globally tends to spark mass debate and conflicting attitudes -- sadly, it is often all too easy to overlook atrocities far from home and the fact that we are all the same

From the 29th of July through to the 11th of September, Casula Powerhouse Art Centre in South West Sydney, will be celebrating the power of human unity through their major exhibition ‘Refugees’.  Free to the public ‘Refugees’ will bring together over 65 works from world renowned artists who share a refugee background. The exhibition stretches over the last hundred and twenty years, examining evolutions in artistic practices as well as profound cultural and social changes. 

It’s the first time such works have been shown in Western Sydney with big-name artists like Yoko Ono, Ai Wei Wei, Marc Chagall, Anish Kapoor and Christian Boltanski sure to attract crowds. We’re especially enthusiastic about the display of works by prolific artists Inge King and Judy Cassab. While sadly, both women have passed away in recent times, their influence on the art world was, and will continue to be, resounding.

King’s passion for the iconic and evocative urban landscapes of Australia resulted in her contribution of sculptural works to all major national collections. While holocaust survivor, Judy Cassab, became one of Australia’s most esteemed portrait artists. Her beautiful depictions of people and humanity leading her to win the Archibald Prize on two separate occasions.   

Casula Powerhouse will also be running a series of public events, with education workshops and forums aplenty.

For theatre aficionados, there’s two scheduled showings of the powerful production ‘Tales of a City by the Sea’ taking place on the 3rd of August. Author, Samah Sabawi says that the story confronts “social, political and physical barriers” but is ultimately “a success story that beautifully displays the power of inclusivity and the strength of our cultural diversity. “

Also running concurrently with the exhibition is a program for children. Coordinated by WestWords—(Western Sydney's Young People’s Literature Development Organisation) Australian sTop of FormBottom of Formchool groups will take part in a letter writing workshop, sending letters to children in detention facilities and also participating in an art exchange.

Like many pockets of Australia, Casula is a suburb that has been defined by cultural diversity, with forty per cent of the population born overseas and a hundred and fifty different languages spoken. With the ongoing crisis in Syria and the government’s commitment to take in twelve thousand new asylum seekers, Western Sydney and specifically areas around Liverpool and Fairfield are set to receive almost half of that intake.

Needless to say, this exhibition and the activities linked to it, were put together in a bid to end the politics of division and to instead celebrate the differences that unite us. Australia is one of the most multi-cultural, multi-faith countries in the world, but this is what shapes our national identity. The Curator of ‘Refugees’ Toni Bailey, expresses this succinctly when she says:

“This exhibition tells the heartbreaking stories of these significant artists with refugee backgrounds,  putting faces and names to people seeking asylum and hopefully giving them a voice ”

Discussion around the contentious issue of asylum seekers and what our national response should or shouldn’t be will always run its course. But in a unique way, ‘Refugees’ is set to bring the issue to the forefront in an exceptionally humanistic and empathetic way.  Indeed, it will allow mainstream society to open their eyes to the remarkable contributions that refugees make to the world and why we are so much more powerful as one.  

For more information regarding ‘Refugees’ and all public events, see here

Casula Powerhouse

Casula Powerhouse is a multi-disciplinary arts centre, located on Tharawal country, the banks of the Georges River within the City of Liverpool.

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